Kat's Engagement Party

Submitted into Contest #93 in response to: Write your story about two characters tidying up after a party.... view prompt

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American Historical Fiction Romance

Introduction

This story takes place roughly 12 years after the events in my story The First Circus and features Kat and Jaime reuniting at Kat's engagement to Richard Burkett. I'm working on a couple of stories about what happened to them during those 12 years, but it didn't fit the prompts this time.

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It had been many years since I had set foot in Hadleigh, Kentucky. My mind was on Kat, and I wondered what had become of her. My two men and I tied our horses in front of Darby’s Inn. Inside, red and white streamers draped from the rafters, and red flowers sat on each of the tables. Darby’s Inn was packed to the roof, so we took a seat in the darkest corner. Mr. Darby bustled over, a balding red-faced man with glasses and a black apron. 

“Round of beers,” I told him. He nodded and turned away. “Hey, what’s the party for?”

He half-turned back. “The Sheriff’s daughter is engaged,” he said and hurried away again.

I scanned the room, searching for her. There, she was as lovely as ever, her brown hair curling softly down her back. Her profile was towards me; she wore her hat on her back, held by the string around her neck, and she was laughing and smiling. My eyes traveled lower; was she wearing trousers?

I blinked rapidly, “I must be seeing things, but no, she was wearing trousers. The light glinted off something metal pinned to her shirt, and I turned to stone as I recognized it as a sheriff’s star-shaped badge. At that moment, she turned, and her eyes met mine. My breath caught in my chest.

Her brown eyes had lightened with time, and they were golden-amber now. Her face had lost all trace of the roundness of her youth, and she had grown into an exquisite beauty with high cheekbones and wide, long-lashed eyes. 

Those eyes suddenly flashed, and her full lips compressed and whitened. 

Looks like she just recognized me, I thought.

Kat’s nostrils flared, and she flicked a lock of her hair over her shoulder as she turned back to her table of companions and laughed loudly at something that was said. 

That sounded fake, I thought as I took a deep swallow of the beer that Darby had set in front of me. Not bad, it wasn’t too watery. “I’ve heard her real laugh, and that wasn’t it. Was that for my benefit, dear Kat?

I watched her as we drank and ordered food, but she didn’t look my way again. As the celebration wound down and Kat stayed to help clean up, I saw my opportunity.

I strolled over to where she was picking up plates and mugs and putting them into a tub. “That looks heavy. Let me help,” I said, taking the heavy tub off the table she was clearing before she could object.

“I’ve got it,” She snapped, reaching to take it back, but I retreated a couple steps out of her reach.

Kat sighed. “What are you doing here, Jaime? I didn’t see any circus pull into town, so….”

“I’m not with the circus anymore; I do…odd jobs here and there.”

“Fascinating,” she said coldly. But she let me continue to hold the tray as she finished loading dishes into it, then I walked beside her, carrying it behind the counter to where Darby motioned for me to set it down next to an enormous pot of hot soapy water. 

“So, you are the Sheriff now?” 

“Temporarily. The townsfolk asked me to fill in when Papa died a few weeks ago until they can find a permanent Sheriff. A bit unusual, I know. I know how to shoot and ride, and people know me, so,” Kat shrugged after she said this.

“And what about this fiance of yours? What’s his name?”

“Richard Burkett, he is the Banker’s son.”

“Do you love him?”

“That’s none of your business, Jaime. You chose to..”

“Sheriff Tudor!” A voice interrupted. I turned to see a young man approach, spurs jangling and smelling like horse sweat, waving a piece of paper.

“I brung a wanted poster, Judge in the next town said this outlaw was seen headed this way, and you should know.”

Dread flared into a tight burning knot in my gut. “Well, shoot. I didn’t plan for this!” I thought as I edged toward the door. 

Kat scanned the wanted poster and turned furious eyes on me. 

“Son, got a rope on your horse?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he glanced between us, looking confused. Then his gaze swung back to my face, and I could see understanding dawning.

“Go get it.”

The young man who had brought the wanted poster hurried out the door and returned within a moment. I glanced back at the table where my men had been sitting, and they were nowhere in sight. 

Cowards. They were probably tearing out of town in a cloud of dust by now. I couldn’t harm Katherine."

So I just sighed in resignation as she tied my hands behind my back and led me to jail. The next town was a two-days ride away, so I had at least four days, two for the rider to get back to the judge, and then two more for the posse to get here to collect him. That should be enough time for him to talk his way out of this.

“Odd jobs, huh?” Kat said. “You rob people, here and there, you meant.”

“I can explain.”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

“The circus train was robbed a few miles out of town the last time I saw you. It might sound crazy to you, but I decided I was better off with them than spending the rest of my life with the circus. So I went with them.” 

Kat pushed me into the cell and locked the door behind me. It was small, with just a cot. She shoved a tiny pillow and a blanket through the bars and walked back to her desk across the room.

She put her boots up on her desk and stared at me from under the brim of her Stetson, her expression unreadable.

“You still could have come back.”

“Your father despised me as it was. How would he have felt if an outlaw rolled into town to sweep away his only daughter? And here I am, and what’s the first thing you did?”

Then, Kat glared at me and, putting her feet back on the floor, busied herself with papers on her desk.

May 09, 2021 20:08

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